Thursday, March 18, 2010

Where Would I Be Without Emily?

I have always appreciated the poetry and life of Emily Dickinson–especially since I discovered when writing The Pantry that she had a penchant for writing poems in her pantry and kitchen. Today I thought, mmm, I wonder what Emily had to say about spring? She wrote about so many things, often in allegory, that I also like to muse about: the weather, gardens, hope, faith, God-in-nature, birds, beauty, virtues, the presence of God or the spiritual realm, oh so many things. To think that she wrote from her home in Amherst, Massachusetts, where I have been as it is preserved as a museum, without ever hardly leaving it or traveling much further than Boston (and I believe that was only once for medical issues)! Yes, it is possible. The mind is a marvelous thing and Dickinson was the ultimate arm-chair traveler through books and her glorious imagination.

I think of Emily as this Zen-master poetess, beyond time and place, really, ethereal in her earthly presence. Her words are timeless and even transcendent. We are blessed to have them today, thanks to the efforts of her sister-in-law who found them and published them after Emily's early death. Imagine–writing for writing's sake and nothing more? I often wonder if Emily would have embraced blogging or delighted in the anonymity of posting on other blogs. I'm almost certain she would have preferred email to the phone, however a voluminous correspondent she was in her day. She may have Twittered but Facebook would have been too public for her. I don't blame her for wanting her solitude or embracing her home and gardens. I often feel the same way in a kind of self-imposed seclusion, at times. Perhaps she was a reclusive agoraphobic or depressed (or had S.A.D.) or maybe she just got all that she needed from books and her own place in the world.

Here is a poem (812.) that she wrote about spring (I just discovered that the Emily Dickinson Museum has also posted it as their "poem of the week"):
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year

At any other period —

When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad

On Solitary Fields

That Science cannot overtake

But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,

It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know

It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step

Or Noons report away

Without the Formula of sound

It passes and we stay —

A Quality of loss

Affecting our Content

As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament –
~ Emily Dickinson

NOTE: Here is a very early blog, one of my first, written back in the spring of 2005 about Emily Dickinson and her pantry poetry. Part of this blog was turned into an essay on cleaning my kitchen that appeared later that year in Old-House Interiors [I will have linkable PDFs of most of my published writings up very soon at my website.] The photo in this early blog (I am still updating and tweaking early entries with links and minor corrections–these were back in the day when it was more difficult to make formatting changes) is of one of the early, original built-in cupboards from our former historic home in Hancock, New Hampshire (c. 1813). Oh, how I miss that kitchen and my pantries!


Jennifer Dee said...

I love that photo with the early spring sunshine shining through the window. I also love Emily Dickinson. Thank you for the link to your website which I have just visited. I have your book and just love browsing through it; I whish you could do another one, perhaps of our time now.

Catherine said...

Jennifer--that's a great idea and thanks for the endorsement. I think it might work to do a pantry ideas for today, using examples from a variety of homes--or integrating good pantry/kitchen designs together into a book.

My next projects don't involve assembling so many photographs, coordinating shoots, etc. THE PANTRY was truly a labor of love, interest in the subject, and a lot of my own money in the process. But I might return to this given the right situation with a publisher.

I found Emily's sunny window to be perfect for March, and her poem. I did not credit it because I got it from another blog which did not credit it, either. But it's not my photo, I should add here.

All best, Catherine

Tipper said...

I agree where would we be without Emily : ) Makes me wish she could know her success.

Hirani said...

Hi Catherine,
How exciting! I have just received your book in the mail. It is fabulous, and everything I had hoped it would be. Such a feast of information and absolutely sumptuous photography. Thank you.

Kathy said...

I love Emily Dickinson.

I just wanted to let you know how much I love your book. My Dad bought for me for Christmas.

I just wrote a new post on Homemaking and would love your thoughts and comments!

AC said...

I've seen you mention Emily Dickinson several times, and I finally took the plunge. I checked out a bio, a book of critical essays, and a collection of letters. What a strange, obscure, intense writer. And so much family drama surrounding her legacy. I'm glad I can see her now as a historical person rooted in a particular context. Taken alone, in a poetry anthology, say, she might as well be an alien dropped down from space. Not that I'm saying it's all been made clear, she makes perfect sense now! But at least I can picture her as a human being.